King Manuel I


Was the son of Infante Ferdinand, Duke of Viseu (1433-1470) by his wife, Infanta Beatrice of Portugal. His name is associated with a period of Portuguese civilization distinguished by significant achievements both in political affairs and the arts. In spite of its small size and population in comparison to the great land powers of Europe, Portugal, during Manuel`s reign, was able to acquire an overseas empire of vast proportions, and for the first time in World history, with a global dimension.

His mother was the niece of King João I of Portugal, while his father was Prince Fernando, the second son of King Duarte of Portugal and the younger brother of King Afonso V of Portugal. Manuel I succeeded in 1495 to his primary cousin, King João II of Portugal, who was also his brother in law, being married to Manuel’s sister, Leonor. Manuel grew up amid the higher nobility conspiracy against the Portuguese King João II. He was aware that many people were killed or exiled. His older brother, Diogo, Duke of Viseu was stabbed to death in 1484 by the king himself. Manuel had many reasons to worry when he received a royal order in 1493 to come present himself to the king, but his fears were unfounded: João II wanted to name him heir to the throne after the death of his son, Prince Afonso and also because of his failed attempts to legitimate Jorge, Duke of Coimbra, his illegitimate son. Following this luck, Manuel was nicknamed “The Fortunate”.

Manuel I was crowned King of Portugal on 27 October 1495, two days after the King’s death. Manuel proved to be a worthy successor of his cousin, João II, by supporting the Portuguese Atlantic exploration and the development of Portuguese trade. During his reign, the following important things happened: In 1498, Vasco da Gama discovered a sea route to India, then, 2 years later, in 1500, Brazil was discovered by Pedro Álvares Cabral. In 1505, Francisco de Almeida was appointed as the first viceroy of India. Between 1503 and 1515, the Portuguese had established a monopoly on the sea routes of the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf through the genius of Afonso de Albuquerque, an admiral, to the benefit of Portugal.

All these actions contributed to building the Portuguese colonial empire that made Portugal one of the richest and most powerful countries on earth. Manuel used his wealth to build royal buildings in a Manueline style and to attract scientists and artists to his court. He concluded trade treaties and diplomatic alliances with China and the Persian Empire. The pope received a monumental embassy from Portugal during his reign that was meant to draw his attention to the newly acquired riches of Portugal throughout Europe.

His relationship with the Portuguese Jews started well. At the beginning of his reign, he freed all the Jews who were held captive during the reign of João II. Unfortunately for the Hebrews, he decided to marry Infanta Isabella of Aragon, the future heir to the United Spanish crown, widow of his nephew, Prince Afonso. Ferdinand and Isabella expulsed the Jews since 1492 and he would not have married his daughter to the king of a country that would still tolerate their presence. According to the marriage contract, Manuel I agreed to persecute the Jews from Portugal. On 5 December 1496, he promulgated a decree that required the Jews to convert to Christianity or leave the country without their children.

In 1498, at the age of 27 years old, his wife Isabella died while giving birth to a boy, Miguel da Paz, who was heir to the thrones of Castile and Portugal until his death in 1500. Manuel’s chance to become king of Castile dissipated with the death of Isabella. Then Manuel I married to Isabella’s younger sister, Maria de Aragon. She gave birth to the future King João III of Portugal.

He remained widowed in 1517 and the following year, Manuel married Eleanor of Austria, daughter of Philip the Handsome and Joanna the Mad, and niece of his first two wives. Manuel I died in Lisbon on 13 December 1521 and was buried in the Jeronimos Monastery, which he had built.

Other personalities

Discover some other popular persons who live / lived in Portugal.

Vasco Da Gama

Vasco Da Gama

Was a Portuguese explorer and the first European to reach India by sea. His initial voyage to India, between 1497-1499 was the first to link Europe and Asia by an ocean route, connecting the Atlantic and the Indian oceans and, in this way, the West and the Orient. Vasco da Gama was born in Sines, […]

Antonio Salazar

Antonio de Oliveira Salazar

Was a Portuguese politician and economist who served as Prime Minister of Portugal for 36 years, from 1932 to 1968. Salazar founded and led the Estado Novo (“New State”), the corporatist authoritarian government that ruled Portugal until 1974. After the 28 May 1926 coup d’état, with President Óscar Carmona’s support, Salazar entered public life, initially […]

Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo

Is a Portuguese professional footballer who plays for Spanish club Real Madrid and the Portugal national team. He is a forward and serves as captain for Portugal. In 2008, he won his first Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year awards. He then won the FIFA Ballon d’Or in 2013 and 2014. In […]

Pedro Cabral

Pedro Álvares Cabral

Was a Portuguese nobleman, military commander, navigator and explorer regarded as the discoverer of Brazil. Cabral conducted the first substantial exploration of the northeast coast of South America and claimed it for Portugal. While details of Cabral’s early life are unclear, it is known that he came from a minor noble family and received a […]


Ferdinand Magellan

Was a Portuguese explorer who organised the Castilian expedition to the East Indies from 1519 to 1522, resulting in the first circumnavigation of the Earth. In the spring of 1480, at Sabrosa, in northern Portugal, Fernão de Magalhães was born. He was a Portuguese-Spanish navigator and explorer and was the first European to transverse the […]

Henry Navigator

Henry The Navigator

Under his true name Infante Henrique of Portugal, Duke of Viseu was an important figure in 15th century Portuguese politics and in the early days of the Portuguese Empire. Through his administrative direction, he is regarded as the main initiator of what would be known as the Age of Discoveries. Henry was the third child […]

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.